Subscribe to
Opera Today

Receive articles and news via RSS feeds or email subscription.


facebook-icon.png


twitter_logo[1].gif



9780393088953.png

9780521746472.png

0810888688.gif

0810882728.gif

Recently in Performances

Pique Dame in Salzburg

It was emeritus night at the Salzburg Festival with 75 year old maestro Mariss Jansons conducting 77 year old stage director Hans Neuenfels production about Pushkin’s 87 year old countess known as the Pique Dame.

Lohengrin at Bayreuth

Three electrifying moments and the world is forever changed.

Salome in Salzburg

A Romeo Castellucci production is always news, it is even bigger news just now in Salzburg where Lithuanian soprano Asmik Grigorian has made her debut as the fifteen year-old Salome.

Vaughan Williams Dona nobis pacem - BBC Prom 41

Prom 41 at the Royal Albert Hall, London, with Edward Gardner conducting the BBCSO in Vaughan Williams's Dona nobis pacem, Elgar's Cello Concerto (Jean-Guihen Queyras) and Lili Boulanger . Extremely perceptive performances that revealed deep insight, far more profound than the ostensible "1918" theme

John Wilson brings Broadway to South Kensington: West Side Story at the BBC Proms

There were two, equal ‘stars’ of this performance of the authorised concert version of Leonard Bernstein’s West Side Story at the Royal Albert Hall: ‘Lenny’ himself, whose vibrant score - by turns glossy and edgy - truly shone, and conductor John Wilson, who made it gleam, and who made us listen afresh and intently to every coloristic detail and toe-tapping, twisting rhythm.

Prom 36: Webern, Mahler, and Wagner

One of the joys of writing regularly – sometimes, just sometimes, I think too regularly – about performance has been the transformation, both conscious and unconscious, of my scholarship.

Prom 33: Thea Musgrave, Phoenix Rising, and Johannes Brahms, Ein deutsches Requiem, op.45

I am not sure I could find much of a connection between the two works on offer here. They offered ‘contrast’ of a sort, I suppose, yet not in a meaningful way such as I could discern.

Gianni Schicchi by Oberlin in Italy

It’s an all too rare pleasure to see Puccini’s only comedy as a stand alone opera. And more so when it is a careful production that uncovers the all too often overlooked musical and dramatic subtleties that abound in Puccini’s last opera.

Sarah Connolly and Joseph Middleton journey through the night at Cadogan Hall

The mood in the city is certainly soporific at the moment, as the blistering summer heat takes its toll and the thermometer shows no signs of falling. Fittingly, mezzo-soprano Dame Sarah Connolly and pianist Joseph Middleton presented a recital of English song settings united by the poetic themes of night, sleep, dreams and nightmares, juxtaposing masterpieces of the early-twentieth-century alongside new works by Mark-Anthony Turnage and Australian composer Lisa Illean, and two ‘long-lost’ songs by Britten.

Vanessa: Keith Warner's Glyndebourne production exposes truths and tragedies

“His child! It must not be born!” Keith Warner’s new production of Samuel Barber’s Vanessa for Glyndebourne Festival Opera makes two births, one intimated, the other aborted, the driving force of the tragedy which consumes two women, Vanessa and her niece Erika, rivals for the same young man, Anatol, son of Vanessa’s former lover.

Rollicking Rossini in Santa Fe

Santa Fe Opera welcomed home a winningly animated production of L’Italiana in Algeri this season that utterly delighted a vociferously responsive audience.

Rock solid Strauss Salomé- Salzburg

Richard Strauss Salomé from the Salzburg Festival, conducted by Franz Welser-Möst, a powerful interpretation of an opera which defies easy answers, performed and produced with such distinction thast it suceeds on every level. The words "Te saxa Loquuntur" (The stones are speaking to you) are projected onto the stage. Salzburg regulars will recognize this as a reference to the rock foundations on which part of the city is built, and the traditions of excellence the Festival represents. In this opera, the characters talk at cross-purposes, hearing without understanding. The phrase suggests that what might not be explicitly spoken might have much to reveal.

Prom 26: Dido and Cleopatra – Queens of Fascination

In this, her Proms debut, Anna Prohaska offered something akin to a cantata of two queens, complementary and contrasted: Dido and Cleopatra. Returning in a sense to her ‘early music’ roots – her career has always been far richer, more varied, but that world has always played an important part – she collaborated with the Italian ‘period’ ensemble, Il Giardino Armonico and Giovanni Antonini.

Parsifal: Munich Opera Festival

And so, this year’s Munich Opera Festival and this year’s Bavarian State Opera season came to a close with everyone’s favourite Bühnenweihfestspiel, Parsifal, in the final outing this time around for Pierre Audi’s new production.

Santa Fe: Atomic Doesn’t Quite Ignite

What more could we want than having Peter Sellars re-imagine his acclaimed staging of John Adams’ Doctor Atomic at the renowned Santa Fe Opera festival?

Santa Fe: Continuing a Proud Strauss Tradition

Santa Fe Opera has an enduring reputation for its Strauss, and this season’s enjoyable Ariadne auf Naxos surely made John Crosby smile proudly.

From the House of the Dead: Munich Opera Festival

Frank Castorf might have been born to direct From the House of the Dead. In this, his third opera project - or better, his third opera project in the opera house, for his Volksbühne Meistersinger must surely be reckoned with, even by those of us who did not see it - many of his hallmarks and those of his team are present, yet without the slightest hint of staleness, of anything other than being reborn for and in the work.

Haydn's Orlando Paladino in Munich

Should you not like eighteenth-century opera very much, if at all, and should you have no or little interest in Haydn either, this may have been the production for you. The fundamental premise of Axel Ranisch’s staging of Orlando Paladino seems to have been that this was a work of little fundamental merit, or at least a work in a genre of little such merit, and that it needed the help of a modern medium - perhaps, it might even be claimed, an equivalent medium - to speak to a contemporary audience.

Donizetti's 'Regiment' Ride the Highway: Opera della Luna at Wilton's Music Hall

'The score … is precisely one of those works that neither the composer nor the public takes seriously. The harmony, melody, rhythmic effects, instrumental and vocal combinations; it’s music, if you wish, but not new music. The orchestra consumes itself in useless noises…'

Bernstein Bemuses in New Mexico

Santa Fe Opera’s Candide is a nearly indefatigable romp that is currently parading on the Crosby Theatre stage, chockfull of inventive ideas.

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Performances

Mirga Gražinytė-Tyla [Photo by Benjamin Ealovega]
01 Dec 2016

The new Queen of the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra

Here is one of the next new great conductors. That’s a bold statement, but even the L.A. Times agrees: Mirga Gražinytė-Tyla’s appointment “is the biggest news in the conducting world.” But Ms. Mirga Gražinytė-Tyla will be getting a lot of weight on her shoulders.

The new Queen of the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra

A review by David Pinedo

Above: Mirga Gražinytė-Tyla [Photo by Benjamin Ealovega]

 

After her grace and intelligent allure tonight, I expect her to inspire lots of women. She has taken over the reigns at CBSO, a terrific orchestra that the London orchestras unfairly overshadow. In preparation for her concert performance of Idomeneo with an all star cast next Summer, I wanted to find out what she could do with Haydn and Mahler at her official Welcome Concert. She did not disappoint!

Ms Gražinytė-Tyla certainly proves herself already to have great synergy with her new orchestra. She carries a modest, but confident air, and inspires her orchestra with her ferocious passion honed by an utterly refined elegance. Mirga Gražinytė-Tyla proved herself a sensational conductor superlatively fit to follow in the legendary footsteps of Andris Nelsons, Sakari Oramo, and Simon Rattle. One can only imagine how this collaboration will grow over time.

As new Music Director, she had her first official concert in Birmingham. After I experienced Mirga Gražinytė-Tyla’s performance with Chamber Orchestra of Europe in Lucerne, she had dazzled me, and I needed to hear more. There, she made Beethoven’s Pastoral Symphony come to life with a freshness and contagious energy with which she similarly infused Haydn’s ‘Le Matin’ Symphony tonight. Unlike some other female conductors she does not butch up her act. Her free-flowing authentic musicianship emerges from her feminine grace, not some imitation of a man conducting. Her mannerisms remind me of Barbara Hannigan, but without any provocative presentation.

The evening opened with the U.K. premiere of Raminta Šerkšnytė’s Fires. At the Lucerne concert, Ms. Gražinytė-Tyla introduced the audiences there to De Profundis, A haunting piece that excited me for more by this Lithuanian composer. Fires makes part of a series of pieces that tackle the forces of nature (Iceberg Symphony, Mountains in the Mist, Glow).

In continuous harmony, several different motifs fluctuate through rhythms, various densities of textures, and an assortment of timbres. On a slow burning, thick texture of strings, Fires contains rhythms from some remarkable percussive piano playing by James Keefe moving back and forth between a celesta. Slowly intensifying, rarified strings overlap in different clusters to create a luscious, breathing mass. I quite enjoyed it.

Gražinytė-Tyla conducted Haydn’s Symphony No. 6 in D major in her black, sleeveless pant suit without baton. Her directions flowed from her fingertips with the elegant determination and gestures of a ballerina. She was delightful to behold. Pleasure visible on her face, she controls the orchestra but does not constrict her musicians. You could see they were dedicated to play for her at their best. Truly a terrific orchestra characterized by its joie de vivre, communal spirit in play, deep musicianship, and altogether fiery passion.

The reduced set-up of strings and standing wind soloists made for an intimate collaboration. In particular the concertmaster Frank Stadler made his violin sing during his moving solos. Solo flautist Marie-Christine Zupancic even managed to get some loud laughter from the audience during the comical moments with her bird calls as well as in the finale Allegro.

The City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra is one of the best in Great Britain. Perhaps the best, if the London organisations weren’t as high profile. I have heard the LSO with Gergiev, the LPO with Eschenbach and Ticciati, but to me they were nothing compared to what I heard in Birmingham.

The CBSO reminds me of how in the Netherlands, the Rotterdam Philharmonic under its PC Yannick Nézet-Séguin has to deal with the historical esteem for the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra. Over the past few years that orchestra often performed more memorable concerts with more intensity than the RCO, but don’t mention this to anyone in Amsterdam.

The meat of the evening came with a vibrant rendition of Mahler’s First Symphony. Transparency elucidated the layers of each section in the first movement while our conductor sustained a titanium tension that became the backbone of Mahler’s “Creation of Earth”. She ruled with a baton this time, highlighting the shrill contrast from the horns within the warmer textures, resulting in goosebumps galore.

In the Scherzo her expressive gestures took control. With her talent for cohesion of all sections, she creates a communal spirit producing an enormous momentum. She energised Mahler’s Ländler, to which she could not resist some charmingly joyful jumps and hip swaying. Something she would take to another level during the stormy finale.

Mahler’s take on “Frères Jacques” proved our conductor could also deliver pianissimo passages. She injected them with a delicate, taut suspense. After this, she immediately launched into the final movement. She conducted with all the nuances one hopes to hear in this furious ending. The audience ended with a wild ovation. I was surprised at how the British lost their composure to such a jubilant degree.

Still recovering from the shock of the American election loss and seriously disheartened by Ms. Clinton’s failure to win, I felt highly inspired by Ms. Gražinytė-Tyla. This woman is successfully breaking through barriers by redefining conducting in her own way, without breaking from tradition. She takes the stuffy masculinity expected in conducting, dispenses of it, and replaces it with her own intelligence and freshness.

“Let’s be proud together of this incredible orchestra,” Mirga Gražinytė-Tyla encouraged the Birmingham audience, before the encore of a Lithuanian piece ended the evening. She spoke with conviction and seemed completely at home in her new position with the CBSO. Beyond her musical talent, she presents a positive role model for women in our discombobulating world. Mirga Gražinytė-Tyla truly is a beacon of hope.

If you are in England. Go visit Birmingham. It’s only an hour north of London. Just as diverse, but far less sprawling. On June 24, she will conduct Mozart’s Idomeneo. It will surely be a high point in this musical season.

David Pinedo

Send to a friend

Send a link to this article to a friend with an optional message.

Friend's Email Address: (required)

Your Email Address: (required)

Message (optional):